07 Dec Doctor Cartu Jonathan Research – Pomona celebrates new additions to its homeless services center –…
About four years ago, some in Pomona reasoned that the city should build more than a cold-weather shelter, and moved to create a services center to bring an end to homelessness in town.
After the City Council backed the idea in 2017, formally adopting a plan for a year-round homeless services center, work began on the first phase of Hope for Home, a 16,000-square-foot, tent-like structure. That portion of the center opened Dec. 5, 2018.
“A year later, here we are ready to open a completed campus providing interim housing, access to services and solving homelessness one person at a time,” an emotional Benita DeFrank, neighborhood services director for Pomona, said Friday, Dec. 6.
More than 100 gathered Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the 2.61-acre Hope for Home campus.
Since opening a portion of the center last winter, both DeFrank and Reggie Clark have been part of a delegation that has given countless tours to lawmakers from throughout the region and beyond. Clark is the program manager for Volunteers of America, the organization that runs Hope for Home.
The group first entered the 15,000-square-foot access center that will offer intake services and a clinic for mental and behavioral health services.
“As you look around this place it is more than just a shelter,” Mayor Tim Sandoval said before the tour. “There is a lot of love here, there is a lot of heart here and there’s a commitment to not just managing homelessness, but ending homelessness.”
DeFrank said only one secured public entrance will stay open 24 hours a day. In this portion of the center, there are restrooms, an open office for city or police officials to use, and a guest desk for agencies that are not site partners but provide services on-site.
The group made its way to a separate entry for the medical clinic, which has its own reception area.
DeFrank said the clinic will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday. Officials hope the clinic leads fewer homeless people to visit emergency rooms for their medical needs.
As they walked through the building, DeFrank showed offices where site partners will operate. The hallway in this area is decorated with photos of individuals who have found permanent housing. Both DeFrank and Clark said they want to line the hallways of the offices with similar images of other participants who have found homes.
Their tour continued to the 1,200-square-foot kitchen. Both the kitchen and access center will be in operation by January.
Just to the south of the kitchen building are the restrooms and lockers, the kennels and laundry facilities, all of which opened in the past year.
Christina Carrizosa, a former council member who ultimately agreed to allow her district to serve as the site for Hope for Home, joined a tour of the access center Friday.
“In the beginning, it was hard to imagine because the only rendering that we had at the time was the tent structure,” she said. “Now, it’s so impressive.”
DeFrank said the center already is making a difference in Pomona. In the most recent Point-in-Time count, an annual census of the homeless population, the city reported 11% fewer people without a permanent home.
Hope for Home is the byproduct of a community summit on homelessness in 2015.
“There was an idea that was planted at that time, that we as a community have to do something, doing nothing was not an option anymore,” DeFrank said.
That idea was expanded by two groups who wanted to be part of the solution: the Pomona Homeless Advisory Committee and Pomona Continuum Care Coalition, she said.
The advisory committee met over nine months in 2016 to develop a strategic plan to end homelessness while the coalition, which has been active since 1998, provided guidance.
“The plan included building a place for the most vulnerable in our community,” DeFrank said.
Pomona resident Alice R. Gomez was at that summit in 2015. Gomez, 70, who was born and raised in Pomona, said she was initially worried Pomona would be taking on the brunt of the homelessness issue in the region.
Friday morning was her first time visiting the homeless services center.
“You finally get to see the fruits of the labor for everyone involved. That they can see what they’ve done and now how do we even make it better,” she said.